|Bishop Fulton J. Sheen as I remember him best ...|
A heckler asked Bishop Sheen a question about someone who had died.
The Bishop replied, "I will ask him when I get to Heaven.:
The heckler replied, "What if he isn't in Heaven?"
The Bishop replied, "Well then you ask him."
JMJ Sometimes it takes an Irishman to appreciate the dark humor of another Irishman. I've always loved Bishop Sheen's sharp wit and banter because of that shared heritage. However, he was able to make just about everybody laugh at the jokes and anecdotes he shared on his primetime show in the 50's and 60's. As is so often said of him, people of all beliefs would ask for his blessing on them and their children when he was among them. I know he was made an Archbishop, but I can never think of him as anything but Bishop Sheen, as I knew him when I watched his show growing up. In the near future, I plan to do a piece on Bishop Sheen's amazing body of work as a writer and a devout Catholic priest.
For now, I'd like to ask for his help. I am one who prays for the canonization of this wonderful man. He has attained the status of Venerable, one step on the way to sainthood. I believe that asking him for his intercession with a need that I have will be a powerful aid -- his prayers along with mine could make a formidable noise to the heavens.
Sickness and pain can drive people to despair. Despair is Satan's favorite emotion. It leaves a big hole in the spirit into which he can enter and spread doubt and distance from God. I can feel that struggle in myself as I deal with illness. I decided to look through some of Bishop Sheen's books to find what he had to say about it. Frankly, I got tired of leafing through them, and, like any 21st century blogger, I decided to go to the computer. What I found I seem to remember, at least I think so, as if I had heard it or read it many years ago:
"As we cross God's will by sin, He crosses our will by love to make us perfect." "Sometimes he sends mental crosses like worries, fears or anxieties to make us feel his absence, and sometimes He sends physical crosses like sufferings to make us feel his presence. For sickness and physical pain forcibly draw us away from the world and its pleasures and makes us realize that the scarred hands of Christ cannot touch us without leaving wounds."
These words are rather unnerving. Bishop Sheen is telling us that God's pure focus is the state of our souls, not our earthly pains. I guess I'd rather hear that God will take away the suffering -- instead, the suffering may continue for the purpose of oneness with Christ. That isn't a new tenet of faith to me. The Sisters always told us the path to Heaven was to walk with Jesus through his life, passion, death and resurrection. I always loved attending the Stations of the Cross during Lent. And one of the greatest writers I've ever read, Nikos Kazantzakis, wrote a book about St. Francis of Assisi, in which Francis described the journey to God as a rough, stony road, split by a great abyss which required a terrifying leap of faith to cross.
I always begin my articles with JMJ because the Sisters had us do that on our school papers, to honor the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to remind us that God comes first in everything. Bishop Sheen always did that on his chalkboard too before he began to write on it during his talks. I suppose those little acts of humility and love began the training for the parts of life much harder than writing a school essay. Bishop Sheen said many things about sickness, but this is the one that caught my eye and my heart. It gives me the feeling that he is speaking to me because I asked, and that even if the answer is hard, that's the one I got.